Tom Dolby wrote and directed a sensitive, moving drama about an artist, Claire Smythson (Lena Olin) who put her own ambitions on hold to manage her artist-husband's career (Richard, played by Bruce Dern).
Now, at the end of her husband's brilliant artistic journey, Claire is faced with managing his Alzheimer's disease, which is at its beginning phases. She has no real support system and realizes (without ever feeling sorry for herself) that she's largely on her own. She asks for very little -- and the few people that exist in her life (mostly associates of her husband) don't exactly offer.
Knowing what lies before her, Claire is selfless, dedicated and determined to make things right with Richard and his estranged daughter, Angela (born from his first marriage). Angela also has a son, Richard's grandson, but she is going through her own challenges (a divorce) and has little bandwidth or desire to deal with her father, with whom she's never had a relationship anyway.
Olin is a superb choice for Claire given her reputation for delivering consistent authentic, truthful performances. Olin's connection with Claire is flawless (along with the skilled direction of Dolby, who integrates Jeff Grace's gorgeous soundtrack with equal skill). The music features a fantastic piano solo during one of the film's climactic moments, when Richard destroys the living room furniture. It's one of those scenes where the music assumes a supporting character.
Watching Claire's attempt to create joy in tough circumstances, only to face setbacks and disappointment, is often heartbreaking, but also a bit inspirational (without being overly sentimental). In a couple of lovely scenes, Claire reveals she still has a sense-of-humor even while facing more questions than answers.
Claire reaches out to Angela without being heavy-handed, rather as woman to woman. Claire also connects with Angela's son with a natural sensitivity. She doesn't believe in forcing herself on anyone, always preferring to connect on a basic, human level. Claire never has a hidden agenda She's simply trying to navigate tough waters the best she can without being a martyr.
Throughout all of this, Claire struggles to keep what's left of her life with Richard together, and the two share challenging moments, peppered with lovely remembrances of their decades-long marriage. The film is Claire's story, but of course, can't be told without understanding the roots of her clear love and devotion for Richard, and Dern naturally delivers. Richard has moments of rage and honesty as he has lost any toleration for anything slightly artificial. He doesn't care what people think, but we also realize he didn't achieve his fame without playing the game. But, those days are clearly gone.
Dern gives viewers a glimpse into the type of man he was, even though his current self is unpleasant, awkward, and selfish. The film ends with Claire's ultimate love letter to Richard as she helps him deliver his last art show with dignity. This is a love story, well-written, beautifully directed, and superbly acted.